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Uses this 2020

December 19, 2020

Hardware

This year has seen some changes in the way I do my computing. I’m bound by my day job to a certain manufacturer and their software, which is not something I’m complaining about but given the choice I would probably use a Thinkpad and Linux just because I prefer the tiling window manager paradigm. This year I’ve been mainly using my iMac pro with 2 external monitors for a total of 3. I think this setup is great because I always have a ton of windows open at any given time and I usually need to see some bit of information in one to make progress in the other. During the first half of the year I was using a single 4k monitor with a Macbook Pro but I found that to be less efficient.

I’m one of those lucky few that didn’t run into any issues with the butterfly keyboards on the Mac. I think it’s a pretty sweet keyboard and used it exclusively for the first half of this year. But after I switched to the iMac it was back to the good old mechanicals. The craziest thing I did this year was to get a 60% Royal Kludge keyboard. It has cherry browns – my favorite. The user manual that came with it was pretty bad so I had a hard time understanding how to configure it properly and replaced it with something else after a while. Later this year I gave it another chance and did some experimentation to understand how the modes are supposed to work and eventually came up with a configuration I liked. It’s a nice board once you get used to the missing arrow keys (macOS really helps there with the universal emacs keybindings) but it becomes difficult to use other boards once you adjust. This was reason enough for me to stop using it as I can’t spend brain cycles on remembering what keyboard I’m typing with right now.

I’ve been using the same cheap-o mouse since 2019 which is still working after a year, a nice surprise. These white label electronics usually crap out after a while. I’m not really playing 1|0 bullet anymore so the mice get to survive longer I guess.

Software

The majority of my time is spent in Xcode, Safari and the terminal. I use an almost vanilla bash config with git auto completion stuff that I added manually. I stated using emacs a lot more this year but haven’t completely switched over from vim. The best app I’ve purchased this year is GoodNotes. The pencil support is so much better than Apple notes app. I started importing my PDFs into GoodNotes to use the pencil to annotate stuff. I was using Apple notes to keep my journal and notes but I decided to find a better replacement for it. The idea behind roam and the zettel kasten method lead me to org-roam. I’ve known for a while the power of org was legendary but never gave a serious try as it looked more like a todo list and schedule manager. But with org-roam it’s very easy to take notes, link them and add images. I could not find a great way to have them sync over to my mobile devices but it’s not that big of a deal. I can use a plain text editor with iCloud support to manually edit them if the needed arises. I had migrated all my journal entries to an intranet Wordpress instance but have decided to switch to org-roam’s daily feature for journaling to reduce to the number of apps. I’m still in the progress of migrating them (there is a lot to migrate).

Servers

I’ve been running 2 VMs and a bare metal fan-less mini PC for some time now as my home servers. These boxes hosted various dockerized services but I have decided to shutdown the box hosting the VMs. This year around May or June my Mastodon instance basically ate my Comcast quota by federating all the media attachments etc from the 15 or so Reddit and Twitter relay bots that I had setup so I decided to move Mastodon to a VPS on a provider. I got a machine with 8 cores and 16GB for 45$/month and let Mastodon run on that. I setup up a Jenkins pipeline to backup this machine and it was all good until I decided that spending that much money so that I can rant wasn’t something I could justify anymore after a couple of months. So I’m shutting mastodon down and basically stepping away from posting on social media. I wasn’t posting anything on corporation owned sites anyway and now that Mastodon is gone social media is going to be out of my life for good. The other services I was hosting on that machine were a bunch of TechScan related services, the local journal Wordpress and a drawio instance. I’m migrating my journals to org-roam, drawio can be replaced by Omnigraffle or GoodNotes + Apple pencil. I was also using Miniflux to read RSS but have now moved to Feedly which doesn’t show me any obtrusive ads and I still get all my feeds from any device. I think that technical analysis is a sham so no need for TechScan. There’s basically nothing left for the machine to host so I’m retiring it. The mini PC will still live in the new 16U server rack that I got next to my Synology NAS and TP-Link switch hosting my Gitlab instance (which is the only service that I really need at the moment).

What’s next

I plan on moving to a more client focused setup that still allows for synchronization over the cloud, and want to step away from using cloud apps that have access to all your data. I’m tired of the amount of maintenance that goes into hosting your own services especially from home with a wonky internet (thanks Comcast). During these quarantine times that may not seem like an issue but I don’t want to get dependent on some service that I later need to carry to a VPS in a data center and pay 45$/month for it ;)

Tags: #misc